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PM Press

The Real Cost of Prisons Comix

The Real Cost of Prisons Comix

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Winner of the 2008 PASS Award (Prevention for a Safer Society) from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency

One out of every hundred adults in the U.S. is in prison. This book provides a crash course in what drives mass incarceration, the human and community costs, and how to stop the numbers from going even higher. Collected in this volume are the three comic books published by the Real Cost of Prisons Project. The stories and statistical information in each comic book are thoroughly researched and documented.

Prison Town: Paying the Price tells the story of how the financing and site locations of prisons affects the people of rural communities in which prison are built. It also tells the story of how mass incarceration affects people of urban communities where the majority of incarcerated people come from.

Prisoners of the War on Drugs includes the history of the war on drugs, mandatory minimums, how racism creates harsher sentences for people of color, stories of how the war on drugs works against women, three strikes laws, obstacles to coming home after incarceration, and how mass incarceration destabilizes neighborhoods.

Prisoners of a Hard Life: Women and Their Children includes stories about women trapped by mandatory sentencing and the “costs” of incarceration for women and their families. Also included are alternatives to the present system, a glossary, and footnotes.

Over 125,000 copies of the comic books have been printed and more than 100,000 have been sent to people who are incarcerated, to their families, and to organizers and activists throughout the country. The book includes a chapter with descriptions of how the comix have been put to use in the work of organizers and activists in prison and in the “free world” by  ESL teachers, high school teachers, college professors, students, and health care providers throughout the country. The demand for the comix is constant and the ways in which they are being used are inspiring.


“I cannot think of a better way to arouse the public to the cruelties of the prison system than to make this book widely available.”
—Howard Zinn

The Real Cost of Prisons comics are among the most transformative pieces of information that the youth get to read. We take it with us to detention centers, group homes, youth shelters and social justice organizing projects. Everywhere we go we see youth nodding with agreement and getting excited to see their reality validated in print. The Real Cost of Prisons helps youth know what’s up and gives them the push they need to get active in the struggle to make interpersonal and community-wide change.”
—Shira Hassan, Co-Director Young Women’s Empowerment Project, Chicago, IL

About the Contributors:

Lois Ahrens has been an activist and organizer for social justice for more than forty years. In 2000 she started the Real Cost of Prisons Project which brings together justice activists, artists, justice policy researchers, and people directly experiencing the impact of mass incarceration to work together to end the U.S. prison nation. The Real Cost of Prisons Project created workshops, a website which includes sections of writing and comix by prisoners, a daily news blog focused on mass incarceration and three comic books.

Craig Gilmore managed bookstores, published books, and edited a quarterly prison newsletter before transitioning into an anti-prison organizer. He is a co-founder of the California Prison Moratorium Project, a member of the Community Advisory board of Critical Resistance and was awarded the Ralph Santiago Abascal Award for Environmental Justice Activism in 2003.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore is Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and Director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics at CUNY Graduate Center. A co-founder of California Prison Moratorium Project and Critical Resistance, she is author of the prize-winning book Golden Gulag: Prison, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California.

Kevin C. Pyle attended the University of Kansas where he received a B.F.A. in illustration, studying under illustrator Thomas B. Allen. He moved to Brooklyn N.Y. in 1988 to pursue a career as an illustrator. He has done illustrations for The New York Times Op-Ed page, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The Village Voice, The National Law Journal, The Progressive, Adbusters, and numerous other publications. In the early 90s he started contributing and co-editing World War 3 illustrated, America’s longest-running radical comics anthology. Much of the work done for WW3 illustrated was collected in his docu-comic, Lab U.S.A.: illuminated documents, published by Autonomedia in 2001. A non-fiction comic investigation of clandestine racist and authoritarian science, Lab U.S.A. won the Silver Medal for Sequential Art from the Society of Illustrators.

Sabrina Jones is a cartoonist and scenic artist. She is a co-author (with Marc Mauer) of Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling. Jones is the author of Isadora Duncan: A Graphic Biography and a contributor to World War 3 Illustrated, Wobblies!, FDR and the New Deal for Beginners, Yiddishkeit, and Radical Jesus. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Susan Willmarth has worked as a freelance editorial illustrator for New York Magazine, The Open Society, Writers and Readers Publishing, and Push Pin Press. Past work includes Black History for Beginners and McLuhan for Beginners.

See and hear author interviews, book reviews, and other news on Lois Ahren's page HERE and Kevin Pyle's page HERE

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